Business

A view from the top

The Sky Room at the Fresno Downtown Holiday Inn reopened to banquets Tuesday, with the nearby Fresno County Office of Education holding the first breakfast meeting in the ninth-floor ballroom in six years.

Today, the Fresno Advertising Federation will bring about 100 members to a lunch meeting. President Casey Lamonski said the group shuffled its monthly meeting schedule so it could be one of the first groups to gather in the refurbished Sky Room, which offers a scenic view of the city's emerging downtown skyline.

Lamonski said the group wanted to reintroduce the Sky Room to its older members and show it off to younger members who never have been there.

The lofty Sky Room went vacant when the hotel, before it was sold and renovated as a Holiday Inn, went through a bad patch and closed after bills went unpaid.

"We understand the historic significance of the Sky Room," general manager Robert Van Orden said. "The reopening is an exciting accomplishment."

The Sky Room is only allowing banquets until a minor problem with the dance floor is repaired. A section of the floor is raised slightly and needs to be fixed before the public is allowed in, Van Orden said. He did not give a date when repairs would be complete.

Then, the Sky Room again will become one of the Valley's highest, and -- this time -- most upscale, bars. It also will provide a dessert and hors d'oeuvre menu.

The hotel also has two restaurants -- Cafe 1055 and Downtown Sports Bar.

Constructed in 1972 as a Hilton, the hotel that is now Holiday Inn went through ownership and name changes before coming to an inglorious end as a Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in November 2002.

The then-owners lost their franchise, were delinquent on hundreds of thousands of dollars of utility bills and owed employees money.

Sam Chang of the McSam Hotel Group spent $6.5 million rebuilding the hotel as Holiday Inn.

Chang bought it because the city's core is short of hotel space.

The renovation adds 200 hotel rooms to the epicenter of the city's convention activity.

The hotel opened during the slow summer season, but is accumulating more bookings every month, Van Orden said, declining to disclose figures. Most conventions already had finalized their 2008 plans, so the general manager is looking ahead to next year.

"We're booking a lot for '09, but the rest of this year looks a little soft," he said.

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